We recently visited the Blind Bear in Cronulla, located in the heart of Sydney south’s beautiful beachside suburb. The Blind Bear bar features exceptional cocktails and food to match! We headed down there to see why The Shire locals love this great local venue.
The Blind Bear is the first small bar in the Sutherland Shire. Ben Lewis, licensee, owner and operator opened the Blind Bear in 2013 with a focus on independent Australian craft beer, seasonal cocktails and an extensive list of Whiskies. The focus of their bar is a rotating selection of independent Australian Craft Beer, so they will have something new for patrons to try on tap. The bar boasts a selection of over 100 whiskies and a staple list of classic cocktails as well as a short list of Signatures.
The Blind Bear is a throwback to the speakeasy era of cocktail bars and its bar interior is cosy and dimly lit with booth seating to hide away in and plenty of seats up at the bar so you can sit back and observe the bartenders working their craft. The food menu is American-inspired, and features burgers, hot dogs and signature chicken wings and truffle and bacon filled Jalapeno poppers. Wednesday Wings, $5 during Happy Hour 6 – 8pm, are incredibly tasty and popular amongst patrons, and the Jalapeno Poppers stuffed with blue & cream cheese, caramelised bacon and truffle oil served with homemade mango relish are to die for! Meat lovers can enjoy a Black Angus or Cajun Fried Chicken burger and Vegos can indulge in a Falafel burger – all served with steak fries!
The bar has embraced its local customers with a strong community of relationships evolving from within the bar. The bar has seen a lot of changes since it opened its doors, originally fronted by a cafe the bar has also housed an Asian Fusion restaurant and dumpling bar on the second level which has now been renovated to become a dedicated cocktail and whisk(e)y lounge on the second floor.
With a focus in the new bar on Seasonal cocktails that includes a list of five cocktails changing weekly as well as classic cocktails, full table service and seating for large groups as well as more intimate seating for couples to compliment the offering from downstairs is available.
2019 is set to be an exciting year for The Blind Bear as they transition into their new license as a small bar with the bar now being allowed extended trade until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays and offers a range of promotions, including live music and food and drink specials across both levels of the venue.
We interviewed Andrew Mae, the Manager and Head Bartender at The Blind Bear to give us the inside scoop on why the Blind Bear has been so successful as it continues to re-invent itself. Andrew has worked in the hospitality industry for ten years. Working his way up from a glassy in local pubs such as Northies and Bangor Tavern, to a cocktail bartender, bar manager and social media advisor at bars across Sydney.
Despite his longevity in the hospitality industry, he hasn’t always had a love for being behind the bar. He studied & worked as an Architect and freelance graphic and web designer. “The first time I truly became passionate about bartending was in 2014 when I began working as a Bartender at The Park Hyatt Sydney. I was introduced to high-quality products and began to express my creativity in the form of cocktails utilising cooking techniques and equipment that opened his mind to a whole new world of opportunity. Beyond the bar, the hotel’s philosophy of “Caring for people so they can be their best” instilled in him a sense of purpose and a greater desire to offer true hospitality.
“The most satisfying part of my job comes in the opportunity it provides to create a meaningful difference in the lives of people on a small and intimate scale. There is more to hospitality than exchanging food and drinks for money, it’s about making people feel welcomed and cared for, treating your customers with the same level of empathy that you would treat your loved ones or co-workers and going above and beyond to exceed their expectations”.
It is this approach to work, their passion for what they do that makes eating or drinking at The Blind Bear so special. They treat you like family like you’re coming in for dinner or drinks at a friend or family’s place. The setting and the service is friendly and personal.
Andrew Mae, grew up in Cronulla and says “the local bar scene had traditionally been built around the local pubs and clubs so when Ben Lewis opened the Blind Bear in 2013 with a focus on independent Australian craft beer, seasonal cocktails and an extensive list of Whisk(e)y it was a breath of fresh air and quickly became my favourite local watering hole”.
He continues to explain “I’ve always admired Ben for his craftsmanship both on and off the bar. He is one of the most driven people you will ever meet and is always striving to improve and expand the offerings of the business that he has literally built from the ground up, building and installing nearly everything in the bar from the booth seating to the beer plumbing. You never know what to expect from Ben when arriving at work, one day he’ll be in the kitchen working on a new recipe for Fried Chicken, the next he will be standing on a ladder covered from head to toe in sawdust, or in the bar working on a new cocktail list”.
“When I received the opportunity to work at the Blind Bear and learn from Ben it was a change I welcomed with open arms as I am learning from someone in the industry who I truly admire”, says Andrew.
The dedicated cocktail bar is inspired by Ben’s travels to the US. His travels inspired the idea to have the dedicated cocktail bar in his bar back home. Hence you will discover that The Blind Bear features a great selection of classic cocktails such as the Clover Club, Manhattan, Mai Tai, Espresso Martini and more, and the cocktail menu is regularly updated. If you really want to try something new, daring and exciting, then ask Andrew or any of his team for one of these creative cocktails.
A cocktail inspired by the Bruichladdich distillery and their willingness to challenge tradition while still being respectful of it. The cocktail is inspired by The Martinez – the father to the Martini and one of my favourite drinks. The name of the drink is a reference to the still used to make The Botanist Gin, ‘Ugly Betty’ her colour as well as the colour of the drink itself which is obtained from the inclusion of Amaro Montenegro as a replacement for Sweet Vermouth as the sweet element in the drink. The drink acts as an unlikely marriage between two spirits from the same distillery, with the heavy complexity of The Classic Laddie used to offset the sweetness of the Montenegro and Rosemary infused Luxardo.
40mL The Botanist
20mL Amaro Montenegro
10mL Rosemary infused Luxardo Maraschino
1 Bar Spoon Bruichladdich Classic Laddie.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a chilled coupette glass. Garnish with a sprig of toasted Rosemary.
A twist on the ‘Aviation Cocktail’, inspired by the dislike of cherry by a regular customer, Andrew adapted the drink using Fiorente Elderflower liqueur, a splash of egg white and a splash of dry prosecco to finish.
40mL The Botanist Gin
10mL Fiorente Elderflower Liqueur
5mL Violette Liqueur
20mL Lemon Juice
1 Egg White
Combine in shaker without ice. Perform dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into cocktail goblet. Top with Prosecco and then gently stir. Garnish with drops of Blackberry puree’ over cocktail foam.
ALL BISON ME
This cocktail is one of Andrew’s favourites. The herbal flavour of Zubrowka vodka combined with the sweetness of Licor 43 gives this cocktail a refreshing and delicious flavour.
5mL Massenez Creme de Peche
1 Egg White
Combine all ingredients in shaker. Perform dry shake. Add ice to shaker and shake again. Strain cocktail into goblet glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.
The Southside is one of Andrew’s favourite cocktails. This twist takes inspiration from the Mint Julep and is served over crushed ice to lengthen the drink and adding kiwifruit as well as yellow Chartreuse to make it juicier and more robust.
20mL Chartreuse Yellow
40mL The Botanist Gin
30mL Lime Juice
10mL Sugar Syrup
10 Mint Leaves
Place Kiwifruit, sugar and mint leaves into shaker and muddle. Add ice, and remaining ingredients and shake. Fill a double rocks glass with crushed ice. Double strain cocktail over crushed ice into double rocks glass. Garnish with mint sprig and lime wheel.
The Blind Bear’s Whisk(e)y bar boasts a vast collection of quality whiskies, including a good selection of The Macallan like the 12YO Double Cask, 12YO Fine Oak, Edition No 3 as well as Highland Park and many more. The drinks prices are very reasonable, so grab a bunch of your closest friends and head down to the Blind Bear for a real treat!
The Blind Bear is located at 28 Cronulla St, Cronulla. For more information visit The Blind Bear Bar website.